I'm reminded of Tony Blair's approach to another intractable problem twenty years ago. Shortly after becoming Prime Minister in 1997, he tried to resuscitate the Northern Ireland peace process by making a speech in which he addressed Sinn Fein directly. "The talks train is leaving the station. I want you on that train, but it is leaving anyway." Perhaps surprisingly, he was praised for his forthrightness of language by the UUP leader David Trimble, who had hitherto been very reluctant to accept any Sinn Fein involvement, and less than a year later the miracle happened and the Good Friday Agreement was signed.
So I'd like to hear Nicola Sturgeon eventually say: "An independence referendum is taking place in the autumn of 2020. We want it to take place with the agreement of both governments, but it is taking place anyway. If you want to stop it, we'll see you in court, and remember there'll be TV cameras there to record your lawyer's explanation that the UK is a prison from which Scotland is not permitted to escape by any democratic means."
If that isn't the plan, I hope there's an equally good one. But I just have this slight nagging worry that people close to the SNP leadership may think it's 1987 all over again, and that all they have to do to make independence the settled will of the Scottish people is hang around for ten years, just as devolution became the settled will of the Scottish people over the period between 1987 and 1997 after the arrogance of Tory rejectionism weaved its magic. The trouble with waiting patiently for history to repeat itself is that it has an unerring habit of darting off in a different direction entirely. In any case, Brexit is an emergency situation and we can't afford to wait a decade this time.